First, our adjudicators have their thoughts on the entries.
Alison Bruce, had this to say:
Then Linsay White offered these thoughts:
Without further delay, we are pleased to announce the results of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2018!
1st Place: Guernica by Sue Ryder Richardson
Adjudicator’s Comment:I love the way that you chose to tell Ana’s story through her grandchildren’s eyes and this multigenerational approach brings the past very much into the present. This could have become expositional and rather dull but, instead, you make it vivid and relevant to the reader. The writing is excellent. In this particular competition there really was nothing to choose between first and second place but, your final sentence, which was both vivid and haunting, stayed with me and secured the win.
Overall, an engaging and powerful story demonstrating excellent writing.
2nd Place: Scarlett Johannson Is The Anti-Christ! by Louise Wilford
Adjudicator’s Comment: I loved this story. It makes excellent use of the market theme and the descriptions of produce are vivid and build both the tension and interest in the character. There’s a real sense of undercurrent and the story has an effective and punchy resolution. You use dialogue well and Lucy was well developed and believable.
Overall, excellent writing, a polished and a very memorable read.
3rd Place: Circle Of Life by Rhona Godfrey
Adjudicator’s Comment: I was drawn to this story for its strong market theme, its warmth and the dynamic that forms between the two characters. The last sentence really added to its impact too. The formatting was distracting and, although it wasn’t marked down for this, other competitions might penalise which would be a shame. You have double spaced but don’t put an extra line between paragraphs and you should indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. The most important change you need to make to your formatting is to make sure that there is a new paragraph each time someone speaks. But, otherwise, it was a very enjoyable story.
Overall, a warm and engaging story with strong reader appeal.
El Rastro by April McIntyre
Adjudicator’s Comment: Lovely sense of place. The atmosphere is built gently and the story is well paced, it is quite mellow and more about characters and the moment than about plot and, because of this, it felt as though it would have been a chapter or section of a longer piece – that isn’t a criticism at all, and I would have been interested to read more. You use local words and you have achieved the balance of using enough to add flavour but not too many so that it becomes a distraction. Pay attention to proof reading, e.g. ceramists should be ceramist’s and ‘A pale, marginally overweight woman in her twenties only months before…’ only months before relates to her being in her twenties rather than being overweight.
Overall, written with a strong voice and to a high standard.
Fading Times by Kathy Joy
Adjudicator’s Comment: Fading Times takes some of the familiar elements of the market and weaves them into a story which is both charming and imaginative. I enjoyed the way the tension rose and was completely invested in Iris. The story provokes thought about the challenges that markets face in current times and this is neatly reflected in Iris’s situation. Try to avoid clichés e.g. ‘knife to the throat’, ‘biting the bullet’ and ‘bigger and better’ because finding new ways of saying these things will extend your writing.
Overall, a strongly themed and original story.
The Pale Child by Iain Andrews
Adjudicator’s Comment: You set the scene well through the use of dialogue and traditional trades which allowed the reader to place the story, timewise at least, with gothic / Victorian undertones. You have made good use of the market theme and the eeriness that is present around a deserted market at night time. The story has the feel of traditional folklore or campfire storytelling and this is a perfect choice. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first line in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.
Overall, strong imagery and an enjoyable read.
The Coat by Bonnabelle Leftwich
Adjudicator’s Comment: This story shows the relationship between mother and daughter and its effectiveness lies in experiencing the insight that the daughter, Lucy, is suddenly given. The mother’s memories build to make her a relatable character. The opening paragraph didn’t engage me, it felt as though you had tried too hard to make it stand out, but once the story moves on you settle into a more natural and fluent style. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first line in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.
Overall, a warm story with a well thought out plot.
The Night Market by Peter Loftus
Adjudicator’s Comment: You set the scene well and the narrator has an engaging voice but the strength of this story is its plot; it kept me reading and you built a sense of anticipation. The final twist was unexpected and clever. The downsides were minor. I would have liked a little more foreshadowing. You also could have picked a more interesting title; quite a few entries were variations on The Market and ones with more intriguing titles were immediately more appealing. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.
Overall, a dark story which stayed with me long after I’d finished reading.
Traders by Mary Outram
Adjudicator’s Comment: This story immediately reminded me of a classic espionage thriller and you effectively built an atmosphere of mistrust and intrigue. Your writing shows a clear affinity with your genre. I think you could expand some of the scenes and descriptions and develop this into a longer piece.
Overall, a fast paced read from a writer with a good eye for detail.
The Trans Sahara Highway by Claire Wood
Adjudicator’s Comment: The way you link the two locations takes the reader smoothly from a British market, which is probably more familiar to most, to an African one. The comparisons are elegantly drawn and the story achieves poignancy and positivity. When I reached the end I wanted to read on. The major criticism is the story’s low word count and, for this reason alone, it almost missed being shortlisted. In general, for a short- story competition of up to 2000 words it is wise to be as close as you can to that limit without going over; 1800-2000 is ideal, however I shortlisted this for the strength of the writing and the beautiful sense of place. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.
Overall, sharply drawn with a strong sense of place.
1st Place: The Market by Phillip Vine
Adjudicator’s Comment: This enigmatic story hooked me straightaway. I loved the dark humour and the Kafkaesque atmosphere. Very well paced, and lovely rhythmic touches in the sentence structure. Of all the entries, this had the strongest sense of voice. The open ending won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the last lines could have more impact. But the quirky concept and the confidence of your prose won me over. Congratulations!
2nd Place: Swipe Left by Kathy Joy
Adjudicator’s Comment: There’s a grizzly twist to this dark but gripping tale. Of all the entries this made cleverest use of the theme. The plot kept me guessing. Perhaps it’s a bit far-fetched (could she really spot predators so easily?). Also the flashbacks were sometimes confusing (try using pluperfect tense when you first go back in time). But the story stuck with me long after reading it, and the last line is wonderfully macabre! Well done.
3rd Place: Mr Dickens And The Bakewell Pudding by Phyllida Scrivens
Adjudicator’s Comment: What a quirky idea! Gorgeous food descriptions made me feel very hungry while reading this. Little details leapt off the page and really came to life. I loved the characters and believed in your world. But structurally it needs development. I’d definitely lose the footnote. Root us more firmly in Ann’s POV: she’s the heart of the story. But overall a joy to read, and it stuck in my memory too. Well done!
The Pale Child by Iain Andrews
Adjudicator’s Comment: There’s some really fine writing here. We open with a hook, and the voice feels convincing. I love the premise and period atmosphere. But structurally it’s not quite ‘there’ yet, and overall I didn’t feel it was tense (or scary) enough. Rather a lot of dialogue and too little action – let us see the pale child for ourselves before we hear his story. But this dark little tale showed lots of promise and stuck with me after reading.
The prize giving ceremony can be viewed here:
Congratulations to the winners! Your stories will all be featured in our anthology. We aim to publish this by December, however, we are all volunteers with out own time restrictions and responsibilities. We will make every effort to release the anthology as soon as we can. Updates will be posted Facebook and Twitter.
If you didn’t win this year, don’t worry. You’ll get another chance at next year’s competition. Theme and adjudicator tbc – keep your eyes on our page and social media for updates.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.